Good Shepherd Catholic Church
By Emma Petrillo, Fall 2015
The Roman Catholic Faith has approximately 1.2 billion followers worldwide, larger than almost every other religious faith. The founding of the Catholic Church in first century AD was based off of the teachings of Jesus Christ, who declared that bishops are the leaders of God’s followers and that the Pope is the leader of all of the bishops. The Catholic Church follows the doctrines of faith and considers their teachings as unwavering and undeniable. Today there are over 270,000 Catholic churches throughout the world.
In the fall of 1972, in northern Leon county, Reverend Edward A. Kirby spent most of the season going door-to-door gathering Catholic families to join the recently established Good Shepherd Parish. Kirby successfully recruited 34 families. By January 28th of 1973 Good Shepherd was able to celebrate their first Holy Mass as a parish. This highly anticipated celebration was held in Maclay School’s Great Hall located off of North Meridian Road. The diocese of St. Augustine, which Good Shepherd parish resided in, assigned Good Shepherd’s geographic boundaries to be all of Leon County north of interstate 10. Unfortunately this geographic location was under construction at the time. Noticing the high demand for an established church, Kirby encouraged parishioners to come together and construct a plan to make this church a reality. In the mean time mass was continuously held in the Grand Hall of Maclay school up until 1974, when Kirby moved his services to Timberlane school auditorium due to a rapidly growing congregation.
In June of 1974, Rev. John V. O’Sullivan took over as Good Shepherd’s new pastor after Bishop Tanner transferred Kirby to Saint Patrick’s Church in Apalachicola. It was Rev. John V. O’Sullivan who continued to carry out Kirby’s plan for parish expansion and the establishment of the parish’s own congregation. By November of 1975 the diocese reduced its size eliminating its’ western territory thus creating the diocese of Tallahassee-Pensacola. Soon after the bishop finally approved the plan to create a Church. By January 4th of 1975 construction began. Good Shepherd parish planned to hold their first mass by July 27th. The church was to serve liturgical, recreational, and social needs in its’ community. With the help of parishioners the church held its Dedication Mass on July 27th, just as planned. Over 34 priests attended and the building’s 425 seats were filled with parishioners. After this, the parish only continued to prosper and grow. By 1980, with an average of fifty families joining the parish per year, the single building was not living up to all the Parishes needs. Two years later the church council had no choice, but to expand the ministry to a location large enough to hold events and meetings and accommodate a 650 family parish. In 1986 Fr. Foley, the pastor at the time, finally established a congregation at a fully equipped dedicated church building in the heart of Tallahassee where the parish still resides today.
Today Good Shepherd Catholic Church and Parish are located on 4665 Thomasville Road. The original church, established in 1986, received a couple more additions. On July 2nd 1998 LLT Construction Company began the construction of the new parish center along with the expansion of the church. These various buildings are home to the church itself where the Eucharist is celebrated regularly, the parish offices where events and everyday responsibilities of the church and its’ faculty and parishioners are taken care of, and a large multi-purpose room home to planned meetings, events, and celebrations. These much-needed additions to the property were finalized and complete by November of 1999.
Since the founding of Good Shepherd there have been a number of dedicated clergy men who have faithfully served over the past 43 years. Fr. Edward A. Kirby who founded the church in 1972 and served as the parish’s pastor up until he was transferred in 1974. Fr. John V. O’Sullivan was whom the bishop assigned to take over Kirby’s position and he was responsible for the first ground breaking of an official place of worship and for growing the parish’s families to 110. O’Sullivan served up until May of 1979 when he was transferred to Saint Thomas. After O’Sullivan was transferred, Reverend Michael Foley took over and expanded the church’s worship and parish centers only improving the church and expanding its’ followers. Foley has been the pastor at Good Shepherd Catholic Church ever since and has attained over 8,366 individual parishioners making Good Shepherd Catholic Parish the largest parish in its’ diocese. Good Shepherd also has two permanent deacons on staff: Rev. Mr. Robert Vossler ordained in 1981, and Rev. Mr. Terry Radigan ordained in 1988.
Good Shepherd has a variety of programs to help those in need and spread the word of God. The members of Good Shepherd parish have created a variety of faith formation ministries throughout the community. One of these is the youth ministry-middle school, which involves events like the Hidden Lakes Retreat, the spring retreat, the fall retreat, the Niceville rally, and Diocesan MS retreat. Another is the Youth Ministry-High School, which includes events like the Steubenville retreat, Camp Cove crest, spring and fall retreats, march for life in DC, and mission trips. The parish also established programs to inform children and adults of their faith. For children this includes mainly vacation bible school, and for adults mainly bible studies. Good Shepherd, however, also has strong ties to ministries, charities, missions, and emergencies within and outside the religious spectrum. Bellow is a list of all the ministries, charities and missions Good Shepherd supports: